Parker Gallant on energy innovation in Ontario
|Formerly a wing of TGH, MaRS is where the money is now|
MaRS Discovery District and the Canadian Energy Innovation Summit
Premier Wynne was in a state of shockdays ago when Chrysler announced they would move forward with renovations to their automobile plants in Ontario without government grants or subsidies. “I was very taken aback,” she said. The Ontario Liberal government has been handing out taxpayer dollars since being elected for whatever purpose seems appropriate at the time, be it to satisfy foreign investors who can make millions by erecting wind turbines or solar panels, or to move a couple of gas plants. The phrase “money is no object” seems to be the mantra. So, to have someone declare that they will proceed with an investment without a government handout came as a shock.
It’s not likely to be a trend, however, as another event indicates. Premier Wynne attended what MaRS labeled as “a cross-Canada energy innovation conversation” (writer’s emphasis) called the Canadian Innovation Energy Summit.
This is laughable, in that the Association of Major Power Consumers of Ontario (AMPCO) recently released a report that pleaded for lower power rates and benchmarkedOntario’s power rates against those of other Canadian provinces and U.S. states. They don’t match the promises made five years ago by then Ontario Minister of Energy George Smitherman who said electricity costs would rise by only 1% annually, as he pushed the Green Energy and Green Economy Act through the Legislature. It certainly appears that AMPCO want a conversation that will bring sanity back to the electricity system in Ontario and never mind “innovation.”
Promoting access to tax dollars
On the MaRS website one finds a link to a “search tool” carrying the caption “Three easy steps to access $27,541,872,468 in funding for your business.” It starts with the following: “The Funding Portal Search Tool enables access to more than 4,500 federal, provincial and municipal government funding programs.” It’s clear that the grants or loans represent monies either supplied or backstopped by taxpayers. Identifying $27.5 billion in “government” funding sources suggests every man, woman and child in Canada is able to pony up over $800 each for these “entrepreneurs” to fulfill MaRS’ mission statement “Building Canada’s Next Generation of Growth Companies.” With that kind of cash on the go, no wonder Wynne was shocked by Chrysler.
MaRS Discovery District has written the book on where to obtain funding grants as it has survived without any visible means of revenue other than government grants. As a CRA “Registered Charity” it must be (?) a provincially owned institution—in fact, 29 employees made it to the 2012 “Sunshine list” and another five are listed on the Mars Investment Accelerator Fund. The latter is “funded by the Province of Ontario,” and reputedly managed by the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs. (Finding specific information on the latter is almost impossible but if you visit the site, Liberal MPP Eric Hoskins’ picture appears and then disappears. Kind of like our tax dollars.) The Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs consists of 46 offices throughout the province staffed with individuals that will supply “free” stuff. The “free stuff,” i.e., grants and financing, these centres offer is not really free of course, as taxpayers provide the money supporting them, along with the grants and loans they hand out.
Who picks the “winners” of these grants? Why is there not a publicly available financial accounting? This is something that the Auditor General should examine in detail.
And another thing…
When and if the Auditor General examines the “MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund” perhaps the issue of MaRS’ survival without substantial annual taxpayer funded grants should be reviewed. Between its filing as a “charity” in 2002 and its year-end March 31, 2011, MaRS has received $154 million or 61% of its gross revenue in grants. Most of the balance of funds came from their real estate operation in a renovated building (the original Toronto General Hospital) that was bought and paid for by the Ontario taxpayers!
Examining the latest MaRS financial statement of March 31, 2012 (where is the March 31, 2013 statement?) is disturbing. While the bottom line indicates an “excess of revenues over expenses” of $5.4 million, without the $30.5 million in grants (69% of revenues) MaRS would report a lossof $25.1 million. Even the real estate operation would have lost money without a grant!
The new 20-storey, $344- million MaRS expansion is being financed by “Infrastructure Ontario” (another Liberal creation) is further cause for concern. Infrastructure Ontario was previously headed up by David Livingston, who pocketed $321,000 in salary for 2012. That was the same year that McGuinty appointed him as his “Chief of Staff” following his assignment, by McGuinty, to try and resolve the impasse between the OPA and TransCanada to cancel the Oakville gas plant. Wonder how that worked out!
Where’s the “innovation”?
The “innovation” displayed at the Canadian Energy Innovation Summit was for the Premier to throw another $5 million in grant money to MaRS and establish a new “Advanced Energy Centre” at the MaRS Discovery District. This new “Centre” is a partnership with MaRS, Siemens and Capgemini to “help showcase to the world the expertise and technology the province has to offer in the energy innovation field in order to drive economic growth and create jobs.”
Now it should be pointed out that both Seimens and Capgemini are in it for the money as both of these foreign owned companies have benefited tremendously from the Liberal created electricity mess. Capgemini, via a multimillion dollar contract with Hydro One, “provide an array of technology services, along with human resources, payroll, supply chain, customer service and accounting to Hydro One.” The original Hydro One-Capgemini contract ($1 billion) was signed in 2002 but has been extended without tender by Hydro One. The supply of “customer service” by Inergi LP, the Capgemini subsidary, may be something that Andre Marin, Ontario’s Ombudsman, will comment on when he releases his report on the billing messes of Hydro One.
Siemens have been one of the major beneficiaries of Ontario’s rush to wind power by supplying foreign manufactured turbines and blades. Siemens established a blade manufacturing facility in Tillsonburg (employing 100) due to the Ontario “content rules” ( now determined to be illegal) so perhaps we will see Siemens close this plant as they did with their Hamilton gas turbine (costing 550 jobs) plant, when offered grants and tax incentives from North Carolina.
It seems strange that the province would choose two foreign companies to partner with, let alone create yet another taxpayer-dependent entity, when they already have those 46 taxpayer funded offices spread throughout the province deciding what the next entrepreneurial success story will be—kind of like playing the slots at an OLG casino except it is the taxpayers on the hook for all the money fed to the slots!
The only real “innovation” the Ontario Liberal Party demonstrates is how to spend taxpayer dollars and increase Ontario’s debt.
March 9, 2014
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.